Thursday, June 11, 2015

Summertime,Summertime, Some Sun, Summertime

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York

Ithaca, New York is more than just Cornell University, the gorges and Lake Cayuga; in fact, it is the people I have met there which mean the most to me.  Yes, I met my wife, Anna there, and so many good friends over the years.  I still see teachers I have had, and this time I also found a small retrospective of the art of Hans Peter Kahn installed on the hallway walls on my way up to the Ink Shop at 330 East MLK / State Street.

Relief print by H. Peter Kahn ( 1921-1997 )

In New York City, at The Cooper Union, I had studied with Wolf Kahn, so when I was accepted at Cornell University for graduate school, I sought out H. Peter Kahn - Wolf's brother.  Peter Kahn became my advisor, and we spent hours in conversation, and I learned how he had studied with Hans Hofmann, and I also got a chance to see his artwork underway.  Now you can see some of it including relief prints, paintings, and drawings, many of which are based on landscape imagery that Peter favored.  Peter was not just an able art historian, but a practitioner too.  He was on the faculty at Cornell for almost thirty years.

The Ink Shop Annual Member Exhibition
"Cloud Dance, Red" print by Kumi Korf

Up the stairs at the Ink Shop, they were holding their annual Member Exhibition so we took some time to look over the prints from Kumi Korf, Christa Wolf and Pamela Drix.  Jenny Pope has a marvelous manic image called: "Plan B, Mirrors in space" featuring penguins and spinning geometry which seems to evoke cosmic storms and sheer energy.  Christa Wolf has delicate water-based monotypes that shimmer and hint of dreams in a land that she titles: "Night Shade".  Kumi Korf has a brash red print that reminds me of a cross between Matisse and Hans Arp, because it's so design oriented and self-confident.

Cornell University campus from the upper floors of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum

Take in the view of Cornell University from The Herbert F.Johnson Museum and then work your way around their Asian collections and on down into Western art on the lower floors.  Looking at Asian art, I came across wonderful sculpture from Pakistan and decorated ceramics from China.  Every time I visit I like to come up here and challenge my knowledge of the Far East - and there are always some surprises and much to learn.

Triple Gourd Shape Vase
18th century Chinese

There was a fine six fold screen of the Rimpa School that features painted fans, and very recent Japanese ceramics that stretch the definition of what ceramics can do.  

On lower floors I found some familiar names in sculpture like Lee Bontecou and Sol Lewitt
( see the photo at the top of this post ) and a very powerful painting by Milton Avery.

Milton Avery

Also there is a mini-retrospective of Jack Squier who was teaching in the Sculpture area when I was a student at Cornell.  The main show on the bottom floor is devoted to protest artwork in a show that I feel could be expanded.  The exhibition is called "Aesthetics of Dissent and Disgust" and it has strong images like the one below - that has blood on its hands.

"Aesthetics of Dissent and Disgust"

In this exhibition there was one of the paintings of "Big Daddy" by May Stevens who also was one of the teachers at Cornell while I studied there.  May Stevens was involved with anti-war protests, and also developed her imagery at a time when feminism was finding its footing in Ithaca, and elsewhere.

May Stevens "Big Daddy" 1973

We were witness to the protests against the war in Vietnam; there were still struggles for equal rights, and the era of Richard M. Nixon was coming to a close.  America as well as other countries had issues to deal with, to come to terms with, and people were upset and were not going to take it anymore.  And during this summer of 2015, there are loud echoes of the past that bring out the protesters and set up the dramas to be acted out.  Power to the People!